Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

Alcohol Use and Decompression Sickness in Recreational Divers

Although conventional wisdom in recreational scuba diving holds that alcohol consumption increases risk of decompression sickness (DCS), there are no epidemiological data supporting this contention. Because of the very low incidence of decompression sickness, a case-control method is a promising way to study risk factors for DCS. No case-control study of diving injuries in recreational scuba divers has ever been done, and implementing such a study has a number of potential difficulties, including the identification and recruitment of an appropriate control group.

This pilot study, funded by the Alcohol Beverage Medical Research Foundation, tested the feasibility of applying procedures from case-control studies of alcohol-related injuries to the study of recreational diving injuries. We will recruit and interview 1) divers treated for DCS; and 2) other divers diving at the same locations. Interviews will include questions about the circumstances of the dive resulting in DCS (for cases) or for the most recent dive (for controls), including alcohol consumption before or after the dive. The pilot study will provide information on a) success of recruitment procedures for cases and controls; b) suitability of interview procedures for accident information and drinking information; and c) sample size requirements for future studies. This information will be used to develop future case-control studies of alcohol use as a risk factor for diving injuries.


Barbara C. Leigh, PhD, MPH PI (UW ADAI)

Fund Information

Alcohol Beverage Medical Research Foundation (ABMRF)
Status: completed